This is a recently completed piece, inspired mostly by paintings of Abraham and Isaac. As the Bible story goes, God tests Abraham's by asking him to sacrifice his son on the altar. When Abraham's obedience proves his faith in God even above the love of his own firstborn son, God sends an angel to stop the knife. God then tells Abraham that his descendents will be as many as the stars. This is an obvious foretelling of God's sacrifice of His own son.
Rembrandt's painting of this subject has always been one of my favorites, as well as others on that subject. I have long wanted to do a painting based on this idea, but was disturbed at the thought of my son posing for it. In a very small way, doing the painting actually puts me through a similar psychological position as Abraham, as obvious as the actual differences in circumstance may be. He actually thinks the painting is very cool, but it's still hard for me to look at.
My painting is not meant to be a literal representation of the story in Genesis, but more of an allegory about the relationship of an artist to God and family, and the difficulty of correctly placing those priorities. "Love ceases to be a demon when it ceases to be a god" is a quote from C.S. Lewis's book, "The Four Loves" that kept returning to mind. The cartoony knife is actually painted by my son, which in a way softens the threatening look of the knife, but I kind of liked the idea of his own drawing being the instrument used in his sacrifice.
I noticed while painting my self portrait that I looked like the laocoon, another father figure, but much more tragic. Even the green cloth I am tangled in reminds me of the sea serpent.I did not want to represent the angel in any kind of conventional way. I've always liked how Giotto's angels had upper torsos, but from the pelvis down were just kind of a smear. Fra Angelico's Mocking of Christ has always been one of my favorite paintings. It is unfinished, but I've always enjoyed the strangeness of the floating hands, and have wanted to use that somehow in a painting.